Responsiveness of the system of governance to the public needs and sensitivities and addressing their complaints about the public entities is the hallmark of good governance. Bad governance denotes lack of response and indifference to the public sufferings and difficulties which is usually associated with corruption. If we apply the foregoing touchstone for judging the quality of governance and review the permeating situation, we can safely infer that over the last seventy years the people have endured bad governance. While it is imperative to eliminate avenues of political and systemic corruption what matters the most is the eradication of corruption among the public delivery departments which are supposed to promote well-being of the people and addressing their complaints and grievances on expeditious basis. The situation in our country has been just the opposite and people are sick and tired of the corruption that permeates in these departments due to lack of transparency and accountability.
It is however encouraging to note that the PTI government which sought the mandate of the people on the basis of its narrative to curb corruption and give the country good governance, sticking to its pledge with the people, has shown unflinching commitment to not only bringing reforms to plug the avenues of political and systemic corruption but is also working with unruffled focus to make the life of the people comfortable by ensuring that their complaints and grievances against the government departments were attended and taken care of without any loss of time. In this regard Pakistan Citizens Portal was launched on 28th October by Prime Minister Imran Khan. It was the first positive move that marked the beginning of country’s march towards good governance. This arrangement for on-line registration of complaints by Pakistanis whether living in Pakistan or abroad was the first of its kind in Pakistan. The citizens were able to register their complaints through an APP which runs through Beta Android version. The government also envisaged inclusion of IOS version so that the citizens, who were using iPhones could also register their complaints through the device that they were using. The arrangement ensured one-click access to 7000 government offices of the federal and provincial departments through the portal. The system ensured that the complaints lodged by the citizens automatically reached the heads of the concerned departments.
The citizens could also upload videos, audios and picture files in support of their complaints. The heads of the departments were bound to settle the complaints within ten days of their receipt. A complaint registered by a citizen also became immediately available at the dashboards of the ministries and departments. The system also enabled the citizens to provide feedback to the government and rate their complaint resolution. The Prime Minister has been personally monitoring the whole exercise as all the departments and ministries were required to send regular reports to him to keep him abreast about the working of the system. Prime Minister Imran Khan elaborating on the system on the eve of its inauguration had said that the system would make the bureaucrats, ministries, government employees and MPs accountable besides addressing concerns of the investors. He said that the citizens would also be able to lodge complaints about private institutions.
An incisive look into the structure raised for handling the online complaints and its envisaged objectives reveals that the system has worked with great efficiency. During the one year since the system became operational it handled 1.23 million complaints and resolved 1057334 of them showing success percentage of 86%. Break-up of the percentage of complaints resolved by federal government, Punjab, KP, Federal Capital, Balochistan, GB and Sindh is 92%,88% , 87%,89%,79%,72% and 40% respectively. As is evident the percentage of complaints addressed by the federal government and the provinces where PTI governments are in place is much higher than the province of Sindh indicating the difference in commitment to resolve the public complaints. The major complains pertained to Police, Land Revenue, Education and Health sectors.
It is pertinent to point out that the attention was not riveted only addressing the complaints of the aggrieved parties and individuals but the government officials responsible for showing indifference to the public complaints were also held accountable for their inaction. A number of high ranking police officers in Punjab were suspended. Five officers of the rank of Deputy Commissioner were issued warning letters, three Assistant Commissioners were suspended while 20 were conveyed displeasure of the government. More than 60 officers of the Local Government department and 22 functionaries of the Education department were issued show cause notices.
According to the figures compiled by concerned authorities in the civilian domain, the registration of 47,000 citizens was suspended on provision of invalid ID cards and there was also a drop of 1,21000 complaints pertaining to court matters, political issues, domestic matters, service matters, classified matters and sensitive issues during the last one year. The foregoing facts surely testify to the fact that the system put in place by the government has shown very encouraging results not only in addressing the public complaints but also in regards to the accountability of the government officials. Hopefully with further envisaged improvement in the system including web-access to criticizes having no android phones, putting in place inter-departmental conflict system and ensuring transparency and openness of the government through Open Government Portal-Strategy Document, it will become even more effective in dealing with public complaints and improving governance.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.